Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Meatloaf

I make meatloaf several different ways, but since I've moved here I hide extra vegetables in it for Mel. She eats vegetables grudgingly. I'm talking about 2 TBS servings. I look at vegetables as medicine and a way to get all my essential nutrients without taking vitamin pills. Any serving less than half a cup per serving just won't cut it. In my case, it's more like a cup of each vegetable I'm serving to 1/2 a cup of meat. Yeah, I love me some veges! But today, I'm giving you my standard recipe.

My favorite way to eat meatloaf is the day after I make it. I love meatloaf sandwiches. I'll make meatloaf just to have sandwiches. Love it or hate it, mine does the body good. Great protein, healthy vegetables, and good fiber.

Serves 6

What you'll need
1 lb  ground beef, 90/10 if you can get it
4 slices of bacon, I use turkey bacon, chopped
1/2 lb ground turkey, veal, soft tofu, mashed beans or some other meat
1 cup oatmeal, rolled or quick
1/2 cup milk
1 small onion, finely diced
                                                             2 stalks of celery, finely diced
                                                             1 cup ketchup*
                                                             2 TBS soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
                                                             2 tsp Jo's seasoned salt blend
                                                             2 TBS dried Parsley
                                                             1 TBS Oregano
                                                             1 to 2 eggs, depending on size and freshness*
                                                             2 carrots, grated
                                                             1/2 bell pepper, finely diced
*whatever leftover vegetables, blended in blender until pureed (for Mel's version)

* Notes- I make my own ketchup. We use so little of this condiment that 6 1/2 pint jars will last us a year.
Eggs vary in the amount of liquid of the egg white. The older the egg the thinner the whites. You want a consistency that the meat holds it's shape.

Putting it together

  • Crumble the meats in a bowl.
  • Mix the ketchup and soy sauce together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Mix oatmeal, milk, eggs, herbs, and seasoned salt together in another bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Add vegetables, half the ketchup mixture, and oatmeal mix into the meat. Work until well mixed.
  • Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  • Form into a loaf. Be careful to not over work the meat. This will make it tough.
  • Bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  • Brush remaining ketchup mixture over the top of the loaf and drain any grease from the pan.
  • Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

I usually will make several mini loaf pans for two serving meals and freeze the rest. I serve it with smashed sour cream and cheddar cheese potatoes. I want to taste potato pieces rather than baby food textured mashed potatoes. Green beans, or green peas, or broccoli with cheese sauce, or a salad. But like I said earlier, my main motivation for making meatloaf is for the sandwiches. Whole grain bread, cold meatloaf with a little ketchup/mayonnaise dressing, lettuce and tomatoes with a pickle spear on the side. I can make two thick sandwiches from one mini loaf pans. Just thaw and eat.


Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed jo

Sunday, August 25, 2019

New Baby on the Homestead

We had a new baby hatch out two weeks. Black Butt went broody before I went into the hospital. Of the three eggs she was sitting on only one hatched. It's a Rhode Island Red. I saw it for the first time yesterday. I've been hearing for weeks now. Mel moved the mother hen and chick to the small chicken coop last week. With the 1/2" hardware cloth on it we knew it would be protected.

You may remember the small coop we got for free last year from the woman we bought our self black English angora Lil Albert Einstein. A heavy limb fell on it. Mel brought it home and repaired it.  We kept it in the bunny barn to use as a hospital/quarantine pen for new or sick bunnies or chickens. Also if Broody, aka Gimpster, went broody again, she's have a quiet spot to be. It was cheaply made to begin with. Mel beefed it up some.

But Black Butt would have none of that. She pecked us unmercifully hard enough to draw blood whenever we put our hands near her while brooding in the nest box. We left her there. The other hens begrudgingly used the other nest box. With so few laying hens, there were only three eggs in the box. So Mel moved them after the first chick hatched. Eventually she left the other unhatched eggs and started tending to her chick. She still won't let us near the chick. She is a very protective mother.

Last week while Mel was putting feed and water in the pen, Black Butt and chick escaped the enclosure before she could catch them. They had free range of the bunny barn. She protected her chick from Broody, Little Sis, and Big Red. They ate and watered together just fine. Black Butt hovered over her chick and protected it from everyone.

Yesterday, Mel left the gate open while she filled extra rabbit bottles with water. She was also putting frozen water bottles in the rabbit cages. Black Butt and her chick escaped the confines of the bunny barn. Black Butt was a free range chicken before going broody and she wanted to be again. I tried to catch them but couldn't. The hen and  chick are out free ranging now.

So far so good. I'll have to wait a few more weeks to see if the chick is a replacement layer or dinner (rooster).

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Not "Lipton" Dry Onion Soup Mix

First, I'll admit this recipe is not totally mine. I originally got the recipe from the Made From Scratch Cookbook circa 1975.The changes I've made over the years has netted me a dry onion soup mix that blends into chip dip, and a quick additive to pot roast and other food stuff preparations without additives. It maintains its shelf life without them. I do dehydrate my own vegetables and meat bone broth instead of store bought versions. I make it in single serving batches, place it in paper bags, and seal them.

 I'll do ten batches at a time to always have a ready supply of it. Why do just one when you've got all the ingredients out already? Think smarter not harder.When I get down to two or three like now, I make ten more.I always have several quart jars handy of dehydrated onions, beef bone broth, and herbs handy. It's part of my food storage. If you don't I';; substitutes the store bought equivalents. But for the optimum taste, I strongly urge you to dehtfrate your own home grown ingredients where possible.

Not Lipton Dry Onion Soup Mix
Makes 1 oz dry serving of Onion Soup Mix or 1 pouch of packaged mix.
What you'll need
1/4 cup dehydrated onion flakes*

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Putting the Garden to Bed Way Too Early

Weedy Garden
As I have lamented for the past couple of posts, our homestead garden is a bust for the 2019 growing season. Try as I might I can't get ahead of the weeds once established.. It was a losing battle. Now, it's a weedy mess. To top it all off, the bunnies and chickens wouldn't eat them. The only thing growing, that has not been choked out by the weeds, are five scrawny tomato plants.

The only saving grace is that there's good, rich soil underneath the weeds. This is way better then the first couple years of trying to grow in hard packed clay and granite. With our good shepherding practices and hard work, we've got a minimum of three feet deep of fantastic, organic garden soil.

First, we removed the fence surrounding our garden. This is the beauty of Mel's moveable fence posts come in handy. Once the fence was moved, it was easier to till it all under. Our small yard tractor is down for repairs. It's on our to-do list when we have the cash. The guy lives less than a mile from us and has no problem with pick ups. So the best we could do was take a swing blade to the area as as prep work. We just left the grass and weeds stay where they fell to compost in place under the woods chips.

As I've posted earlier, we are putting the garden to bed early this year.

We've spent the last couple of weeks hauling, with a garden wagon, wood chips into that garden. It was one of the best investments I made. It's a work horse. Mel would shovel a load of wood chips, bring it into the garden area, and dump it. I'd spread the 2' pile where it needed to go about a foot deep. Later, we spread the partially composted rabbit and chicken manure on top. doing it this way is labor intensive, but we make do with what we got.

Once the partially composted compost was spread about a couple inches worth, we spread weed blocker fabric over the top. We chose the weed blocker fabric versus tarps or plastic because rain will go through it and we needed it to breathe to compost in place without turning until next spring, two seasons away ( 7-8 months from now). It should be decomposed enough to plant again without weeds by then.

During the fall and winter months, Mel will be starting her greenhouse, hydroponics system will be built. That's Mel baby and I'll leave her to it. If she loses interest or doesn't get it done between her seasonal depression or her ADD. It's on her. The soil will still be plantable in the spring or summer. I'm hedging my bets this coming spring. I can't afford to play around and wait next year. We need the produce.

I'm thinking of doing straw baled tomatoes again. It worked great when I did it year before last although the bales were almost fully composted by the time I picked my last tomatoes. Compost never goes to waste. I just need higher supports. The tomatoes grew up and over the supports I had. They rerooted themselves in the ground on the other side. The Cherokee and Roma tomatoes continued growing, and producing until the first hard freeze.Yes, I definitely have a good soil base even with straw bales fertilized with rabbit poo tea.

I really need a great tomato harvest next spring. I'll interplant marigolds, basil, oregano, onions, and garlic  in each bale for weed control. I always get wheat bales so when the wheat seeds sprout, it's almost free greens for the bunnies. It's a twofer for the same money. By interplanting, it will not only be fragrant and beautiful, but it will deter pests too.

Some of the weeds are deeply rooted. It's surprising how quick the spiny rushes will grow roots a foot deep while the green tops are barely six inches worth of growth. Ask me how I know. Yes, I've found this obnoxious weed in my garden area now too. It not only forms a tap root like a dandelion, but it forms a thick clump of roots like regular grass too. It's a nightmare to dig up. It's almost as maddening as sand dollar weeds in my south GA homestead. Before anytime at all, I could have a million dollar yard in sand dollars, that is. Even with due diligence, it can get away from you fast. Every area in the country has their own weed issues.

Wild Plantain
I'll plant transplants this spring so I'll be able to mulch them in to prevent weeds from getting a foothold. Weeds that do pop up are easy to pull from the composting wood chips. If bunny loves to eat weeds do pop up in the garden area, I'll transplant them into the bunny greens area.

What gets transplanted or left to grown in my garden area?

  • I love Plantain that grows abundantly wild on our homestead. I'll toss the young leaves into salads or make it into poultices or salves. They have excellent antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. Just put it in your mouth and chew it for bug bites. It's purported for use with snake bites, but I'm on the fence on this one except for nonpoisonous snakes as an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory as stated above. When you think of what snakes eat, it makes sense.

    White clover
  • Clover makes great ground cover no matter which type you plant. It fixes nitrogen in the soil and is great for heavy feeders like asparagus and potatoes. They also attract bees for pollination. Their dense ground cover and creeping nature, allows for this perennial to self sow an area in short order to keep weeds down to a dull roar.
Bunnies love them. It makes up less than 1% of their fresh greens because it affects their kidneys. But, it's good for people too. It high in protein (survival food) and white clover has expectorant/decongestant properties. It also has digestive settling properties when eaten raw. I'll add a few handfuls of leaves and flowers to salads. For women like me, post menopausal/ hysterectomy, clover supplies a plant based estrogen in small amounts. Just enough to keep those mini tropical vacations, aka hot flashes, at bay.

These are two weeds of many that I'll keep or transplant. So not all weeds are bad. It's just the over abundant bad weeds that caused us to put the garden to bed early this year. But, it's not a total loss. We'll be sitting pretty for spring planting in 2020. May God and Mother Nature bless us.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: My Triple Potato Salad

As promised last week, this is my recipe for my triple potato salad. It's one of my most requested recipes at picnics and it uses no mayonnaise. A bright, colorful side dish that can go with any grilled meat. Packed with vitamins and does your body good.

Jo's Triple Potato Salad
Serves 4- 1/2 cup servings
What you'll need
3 small red potatoes
1 medium sweet potato
3 small blue or Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 small red onion, finely diced or thinly sliced
3/4 tsp dill weed
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
                                                         2 TBS apple cider vinegar
                                                         1 clove of garlic, finely minced
                                                         1/4 tsp sugar or sugar substitute
                                                         Salt and pepper to taste. For me it's a 1/4 tsp each
Putting it together
  • Scour the potatoes to clean. Do not peel them.
  • You can cook these several ways (boil in water, bake, or microwave them). Since this is part of my "It's Too Hot to Cook" series of recipes, I'll poke and microwave them. 5 minutes on high should do it.
  • Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  • Make your vinaigrette. Place the vinegar, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well. Then drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Set aside. It will stay emulsified for several minutes.
  • Peel the sweet potato. Leave the skins on the other two.
  • Dice all potatoes (I usually do a 2" dice) and place into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  • Add the red onions, cilantro, and parsley. Toss to combine.
  • Pour the vinaigrette over the potato mixture. Toss to combine.
  • Cover and set in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours to allow the flavors to get happy.
  • Toss again before service. All the vinaigrette should have absorbed into the potatoes.
I hope you enjoy my triple potato salad. It was one of my husband's favorite recipes too. It's definitely a change from regular potato salad.

For an added special touch, crumble some crispy bacon on top before service.

Y'all have  a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo                                                 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Cockeyed Headway- The Rabbitry

Cockeyed bunny barn
Man, oh man, it's been a busy week on the homestead this week. It was good to be doing something constructive toward the homestead again. All of it had to do with the downsizing or consolidating the rabbitry. Dropping the cages, scrubbing each down with bleach and soap, and rehanging some of them, figuring out which rabbits go where. Even though we shaved them back in March, the angoras have blown their coats. It took both of us to groom all of them in a timely fashion. The staple length is a bit shorter but 3 1/2" is a respectable length to work with. But, it's finally done.

I was beginning to think we'd never finish it. I focused on scrubbing the future unused cages. They will be stored away from anything living, We had two empty doe cages absolutely full of chicken poop. This was my job. Now keep in mind that the doe cages are a 3' cube, each one. We are talking a full day to remove the poop and another one to clean them.  Guess where the chickens roosted at night? :o)

Mel did the buck cages which were slightly easier because they are smaller. All rabbits have scrubbed clean and sanitized 12" tiles in them. All the J feeders and spare water bottles have been cleaned and rehung on the cages. The 5-cage buck unit is history since we only have three bucks.

Mel shoveled about 4" of composted straw and dropping that has been composting in a deep bedding method from the dirt base floor since Spring. It'll finish composting in the garden before we lay the black fabric down in a couple of weeks.

The rabbitry's rain catchment watering system is now set for only seven bunnies instead of eleven. We even took the opportunity to bleach out the system. We want the remaining rabbits to have a super clean start. I mean since we were doing all this work to revamp the rabbitry, it only made sense, right.

We've got two 50# bales of timothy/orchard grass hay and three 50# bales of straw now under cover. That will see us through about three or four months. All my seeds and buckets for fermenting chicken food are under cover now. The Cyclone fans are closer to the remaining rabbits to keep them cool for the remaining of the summer. And, there's space for more. There's space for the chickens roosting perch and a larger grooming table. We're happy with the progress we made this week. It was a job and a half.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: It's a Summertime BBQ

Nothing beats an old fashion barbecue on sweltering, hot summer days. Everything just tastes fabulous when cooked over hot coals. Yes, I'm continuing my recipe series, "It's too hot to cook." We still haten't financially managed to fill up our propane tank for the gas stove also.

For the 4th of July, I didn't go home for my family get together, I was still healing from my various injuries, surgeries, and illnesses. So Mel did under my direction this time. So I celebrated it with Mel instead, I made all my family's favorites. BBQ pork ribs and chicken all smothered in my copycat recipe for Sweet Baby Ray's recipe for barbecue sauce. Yes, I even canned some in half pint jars for later enjoyment. I peeled back the husks on some fresh corn spread a thick slab of butter, salt and pepper before wrapping it up in foil husk and all, and threw it on the grill too.

Side dishes like fresh salads. and my three potato salad, with plenty of mint flavored ice tea. For dessert, a frosted cherry and blueberry pizza (also cooked on the grill) was all we could eat. Mel made her lemon icebox pie was saved for later. Nothing could be simpler and oh, so delicious to make!

Now, I parcook my ribs and chicken thighs the night before (when it's cooler in the toaster oven) and place them in the refrigerator overnight. Just 10 minutes on both sides at 400 degrees. This way I know it will cook to well done on the grill.

I promised to share this recipe with our YouTube followers, but haven't yet. In my restaurant, I made this in 10 gallon batches weekly. I scaled the recipe way back to about 2 1/2 cups for y'all. I doubled this recipe to can the leftovers for my pantry stores.

 Jo's Copycat Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce
Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups or 20 servings

What you'll need
1 1/4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup dark brown sugar*
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup molasses, unsulfured
1/4 cup pineapple juice, about 1 of those single serve cans
1/4 cup water
2 TBS hickory liquid smoke
3 1/2 tsp ground mustard
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
                                          1/2 tsp allspice
                                           pinch nutmeg*
                                           pinch cayenne pepper, more if you want more heat
                                           1 tsp kosher or sea salt
                                           1 tsp black pepper

*Notes- *I make my own dark brown sugar. 1 lb of sugar mixed with 1/4 cup molasses. Mix well. Store in air tight container.
* I buy my nutmeg whole and grind it with my microplane grater. It holds its flavor better. One good swipe equals a pinch.

Putting it together 
  • Mix everything in a saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer until the desired thickness is reached. Stir to keep bottom from scorching. I use the thick coating on the back of a spoon as my guide.(about 20 minutes) It will continue to thickens more as it cools. 
  • Taste for desired flavor.
  • To can this BBQ sauce, pour into hot half pint jars, wipe jars, warm lid, and ring the jars. Water bath can for 15 minutes. 

I've used this sauce whenever I've needed BBQ sauce for 15 years now. Most folks can't believe I made it from scratch. Now you can too!

My Triple Potato Salad recipe is coming up next post.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Starting the Garden from Scratch...Almost

Our garden this year has been a bust. Between my surgery and car accident, Mel's depression issues plus driving me hither and yon, and Mother Nature, it's all worked against us. I said before my break from posting, I wish I could blame Mel's garden plan, but I'm as much at fault as she. The garden I had almost weed free has been taken over by weeds. Where there is a bare spot Mother Nature will fill it. It's a huge change from last year where I met 100% of several vegetables. Now is the time to start planting our fall garden. I think we'll pass.

Mel's thought was to turn the whole garden area into greenhouses. She got tired of sitting on the ground to sort of deal with the weeds. "I'm not getting any younger, ya know!" I talked to her brick wall when I told her gardens take daily if not weekly tending to keep weeds down to a minimum.  Even weed-free systems need mulching and tending. No garden is no-labor intensive to get good produce.

The year before I'd spend hours each day in the garden. Some areas I let go wild for rabbit food, but where my plants were was almost weed free. I'm thinking of a different strategy. We've spent monies, time, and effort building up the soil two and a half feet above the hard clay and granite which was the original garden area. The fact that I produced so much in such a small area the year before proves that the soil is great even the not so good areas.

I'm thinking of starting from scratch again...almost. Especially since I know there is good soil in the garden area. I want to till the whole garden area under and lay a 3-6" layer of wood chips over the entire area again. To speed the decomposition process along, I'll pin landscape fabric over the top of it all for the fall and winter seasons. It will still benefit from the rain and snow, still be able to breathe, and compost while killing any weeds and rhizomes. I liked Mel's idea of a 18" border of coke boxes and straw for keeping outside the garden area weed-free. I'm thinking of expanding it to 2-3'.

Come spring, we should gave a totally weed free area to plant. We'll start all seeds and transplant them into the garden except for the beans. By using transplants, we'll be able to mulch around the plants tightly thus depriving weeds a foothold. I'm foregoing Mel's  standard, single group plantings back to my double raised beds with a mixture of beneficial flowers, herbs, and other companion plants. In other words, I'm going back to the system I know that works. She can have a 8'x26' greenhouse too. It amounts to 3 rows of crops I would have planted. It could work. I'll work around it. I'll be hanged if we have another busted garden year while she experiments with this or that method. We simply can't afford it and I want something to eat from our seeds planted.

While during the composting/weed eradication process, Mel will be building her greenhouse. She'll be placing the good soil into elevated planting beds inside. This is so she she won't have to kneel or sit on the ground to weed around the plants. Is there an echo in here or wasn't that my suggestion several years ago?

While I thought about burning the bunny greens patch between the garden and the workshop, I've changed my mind. It will also get several inches of wood chips and a cover. We'll see if that pesky spiny rushes and Spanish
Cockeyed Bunny Barn
bayonet can survive through six to seven months of dense mulch, wood chips, and landscape fabric. Although, for this area I could use tarps and cover the whole area. In the spring, I can sow some grass seed mixed with white clover seed for the rabbits. I can plant my black oil sunflower seeds along the side of the workshop for a complete bunny love area. I can even transplant some plantains from various areas of the yard into the space. None of it is deep rooted so it'll be perfect. The fact that we have fewer rabbits is besides the point. We love our critters and want the best for them!

By consolidating cages and rabbits, there will be more available space in the bunny barn. We can better store our feed and hay out of the weather. I can finally have a decent grooming area for the rabbits.  I can build a roosting area out of limbs for the three hens and rooster that actually roost in there at night. The rest roost in the coop. Our fifteen-hole rabbitry will now only ever house seven. But the space won't go to waste.

So that's the plan, sort of. How much we get done is another story. A tractor with a scoop would be helpful, but we are doing things with a garden cart, a wheel barrow, and manual labor, so our physical and mental well being comes into play. For two disabled ladies in their sixties that a major monkey wrench in getting everything done. At least we've got the wood chips courtesy of the tree service back in early spring. It's a start in starting from scratch with the garden...almost.

 Y'all have a blessed day!
Cockeyed Jo